Tarsha Orsman - the ‘face’ of Kate Sylvester’s new collection ‘Exploding Woman’ - is currently studying a Bachelor of Global Studies at the University of Auckland, majoring in Global Politics and Human Rights, while younger sister Gemma is working on her own clothing brand. She also has a pretty substantial social media following on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. We join the siblings on a perfectly sunny Wellington day to talk family, home and lessons in fashion.
What role does family play in your life?
Tarsha: I know that my family will always be there for me whenever I need. I am incredibly lucky to have strong family roots and will hold onto these values when I have my own kids. I think a lot of people forget to be grateful for family and I make sure to show gratitude to them, especially my parents.
Gemma: I believe my family is the friends I chose for myself and my actual family. People who actually make a positive impact on my life and who also look out for me and my best interests at heart. Family means a lot to me because when you’re part of a family, someone’s always got your back.
How would you describe your relationship with your sister?
Tarsha: Gemma in my eyes, has always been my annoying little sister but she is growing up and out of that role. Of course, I have a lot of love for her and it is very normal for us to hang out in each others’ rooms and laugh for hours. As soon as she stops stealing my clothes I will classify her as my not ‘so annoying sister’.
Gemma: My sister and I haven’t always been very close. Before she travelled for modelling we didn’t really interact with each other until we had to. But her leaving actually impacted me and it brought us closer together I would say. She has taught me everything I know and I know that’s she’s always got my back.
What do you admire most about her?
Tarsha: Gemma has a lot of fire to her and she isn’t afraid to stand up for what she is passionate about. Sometimes she is a little bit too passionate - how much passion do you think someone can have for leftover pizza? Apparently a lot, if you were to eat her leftovers you would really experience her fire. But seriously, she makes sure to never let injustices go without reprimand and does a great job at educating her peers about discrimination and other wrongdoings.
Gemma: The thing I admire the most about my sister is her passion about certain things, may it be politics, things that are happening in our world today, global warming and so on. She is always so involved. I love that about her, this is because she always fights for what’s right.
What is something your sister has taught you?
Tarsha: Gemma has taught me the importance of being yourself and making sure that no one gets in the way of expressing yourself. She has always been extremely confident and if anyone has a problem with it, it never bothers her.
Gemma: She has taught me a lot of things especially for this industry [modelling]: she taught me how to work the runway, how to pose and how to always bring myself up when I didn’t book a job.
What advice did you give or ask your sister when it came to modelling and working in fashion?
Tarsha: There is a lot of pressure to uphold certain body standards from both yourself and often international managers. I do my best to make sure that it doesn’t affect Gemma the same way it impacted me. Lots of other little tips and tricks like not wearing clothes that will leave marks or prove difficult to remove when wearing a full face of makeup, or ruin a hairstyle that took 3 hours to craft. But most importantly to be kind to everyone on set and never take yourself too seriously!
Gemma: I asked for a lot advice because I had no idea what I was doing. She basically taught me everything I know, so I have to thank her for that.
Gemma wears Karen Walker dress, $845, and scarf (custom-made).
Ensemble is about the power of self-expression through clothing. How would you describe your relationship with fashion?
Tarsha: My style is definitely representative of my personality. I am pretty chilled out which is why I love pieces that I can just throw on. I also love moving, dancing to my music on my way to the train station and I’m always walking too fast, so comfort (a.k.a. white sneakers) is essential to my outfits. When I feel confident in my clothing, I am comfortable being myself and am able to express my thoughts, emotions or anything more clearly. Clothes should help express who you are but I think it's also important that they instil a confidence to talk, think, and act like yourself.
Gemma: I’m currently working on clothing designs for a future clothing brand that my friend and I have created, called Identity Owners - it’s about self expression and being who you want to be. After I struggled with my sexuality for a couple of years, I just want people to feel comfortable with who they are.
Tarsha wears Kowtow jumper, $239, and shorts, $179.
What does the idea of ‘home’ mean to you?
Tarsha: Home is where you feel comfortable, warm and at peace. Although Wellington is cold sometimes, I feel warmed by the beautiful people and within the gratefulness I have calling the capital my home. I still can’t help but smile when I walk along the waterfront, and always have a sense of relief when I return after travelling.
Gemma: The idea of home to me is somewhere I feel safe and can be my true authentic self. Home to me is when I’m either around my best friends or my family.
Twenty-seven Names jacket, $740.
What do you love most about living in Wellington?
Tarsha: That it's biophilic; the people; the waterfront and the serendipity.
Gemma: I love living in Wellington because of the people and just how beautiful it is. People are super chill. Wellington also has a lot of different cuisines and sustainable clothing businesses which I like to support.
The world is a little tumultuous right now... What’s bringing you happiness and clarity?
Tarsha: Little kids don’t always comprehend the bad things, and there is a lot to learn in their positivity and how they find happiness in the smallest things. Focusing on one thing at a time is super important when we are faced with so many issues. Taking things slowly and as they come, and being grateful for everything gives me a clear perspective.
Gemma: My best friends, who mean the absolute world to me, bring me happiness and clarity. They love me unconditionally and know to pull me up on things if I do something wrong. We all hold each other accountable for things if need be which I love and respect. Also my family, although they can be a pain sometimes, always manage to make me smile even on the bad days.